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The gateway to another world is located in a pasture fence, in the middle of a green meadow on New Zealand’s North Island. Behind it follows a long, unusually wide and well-built road for the place. Your destination is a bus parking lot and a sign that reads: Hobbiton Movie Set. Welcome to the Shire!

There are six movies in particular that have been instrumental in the boom in tourism in New Zealand over the last 20 years, namely the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies by director and producer Peter Jackson. It was he who saw the landscapes in his native New Zealand that J.R.R. Tolkien describes in his books. And anyone who is familiar with the words can understand this only too well, since you think you see hobbits, elves or dwarves behind every green hill, in every enchanted rainforest and under every weathered stone.

Most of the film sets have completely disappeared today, many of the large cities from the films exist anyway only as computer simulations or were built in the film studios of New Zealand’s (film) capital Wellington. One place, however, still exists today and is the ultimate dream destination for all nerds and fans of Middle Earth. We’re talking about the home of the Hobbits, the Shire.


In 1998, Peter Jackson discovered the site on the land of the Alexander family, long-established farmers in the north of New Zealand’s North Island, during a helicopter flight. He immediately recognized the perfect setting for Hobbingen, Beutelsend and Co. With the help of the New Zealand Army, work began shortly thereafter to transform sheep pastures, swamplands and pristine hills into a film set with associated infrastructure for more than 400 actors, crew members and other employees. Among other things, a 1.5-kilometer road, water supply and accommodations had to be built.

The heart of the 5.5-hectare area is formed by the 44 hobbit caves. The set designers did a great job and managed to create a different world in the middle of nowhere with a lot of attention to detail, which looks as if it had been inhabited for hundreds of years. Every fence, every door, every stone looks old – and has been painstakingly handcrafted. Just one example: The mighty oak tree at Bag End, the home of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, is real, it was moved here from Matamata, 15 kilometers away, but its leaves are plastic, each one painted by hand! Interior shots from the caves were made in the studios in Wellington in the process.


After the end of filming for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, many of the sets fell into disrepair, some were removed, and the remains attracted fans of the films back in the early 2000s. It wasn’t until 2011, after the end of Hobbit filming, that the decision was made to make the movie set permanently and officially accessible as the Hobbiton Movie Set. Today, a well-developed tourist infrastructure with a visitor center, souvenir store and café can be found on site. Every day, workers ensure that the sets are maintained in their original condition and preserve their charm: Real smoke comes out of the chimneys, gardeners take care of the little hobbit front gardens and everything seems as if the little creatures would return to their caves at any moment.

Tickets for this small, perfect world cost 89 NZD, about 50 euros. Our tip: book early! During the peak tourist season, the New Zealand summer months of December to February, tickets are in high demand. Included in the price, by the way, is a drink at the Green Dragon, the most popular inn in the entire Shire and so far the only building that is also completely built out on the inside. If a simple tour is not enough for you, you can also sign up for the famous “second breakfast” and enjoy the trip to the Shire in culinary terms as well.

Source cover image: Unsplash / Mostenire 

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